West Dunbartonshire is one of four national case sites where WWS are working with local partners to research public service reform through processes of collaborative action research. Collaborative Action Research (CAR) has successfully been used worldwide in education and schools to change professional working practices, and WWS is innovating this research approach through its work with Community Planning Partnerships. For WWS, CAR involves a Research Associate working with groups of CPP partners on a topic of common concern, and:
- supporting reflection on working practices;
- exploring evidence on that topic and learning from this
- enacting evidence-informed change
- sharing the experience and findings … and so learning.
This ‘research cycle’ can be repeated several times. The learning will inform the practice of conducting CAR in other multi-agency contexts, and will also inform the public service reform agenda in Scotland, stemming from the Christie Commission report. This fits with the WWS overall objective to improve the way local areas in Scotland use evidence to make decisions about public service reform.
WWS have been working with the local community planning team in West Dunbartonshire to develop collaborative action research projects, which address local priorities for public service reform. The early preparatory phase of our work examined a new neighbourhood approach to community planning in West Dunbartonshire, known locally as ‘Your Community’. This approach aligns to the post-Christie Commission agenda for public service reform that is reflected in forms of community planning that are more responsive to local needs and community assets. ‘Your Community’ in West Dunbartonshire seeks to strengthen and enable evidence informed and community-led approaches to action planning. This local programme of public service reform was identified as a key priority for WWS in West Dunbartonshire.
The model includes gathering data and local intelligence and community engagement to identify priorities for local action plans. Two key aspects of this approach have become the focus of collaborative action research in West Dunbartonshire: community-led action planning and community profiling.
What Works in Community-led Action Planning?
The West Dunbartonshire community planning team identified community-led action planning as a key area for collaborative action research. The aim of this work is to research and design a meaningful and effective process of dialogue and participation in community led action planning (C-AP). WWS activity in West Dunbartonshire has focused on gathering and analysing evidence through Action Research Interviews and facilitating a Community-led Action Planning Development Day with local community engagement practitioners and community planning partners.
Thirty participants attended the C-AP Development Day including employees of West Dunbartonshire Council, local voluntary sector including housing and youth organisations, the Leisure Trust, the local Health and Social Care Partnership and Skills Development Scotland. The event included a session with Oliver Escobar on the Scottish Policy Context and the Community Empowerment Act, clips from video recordings of Action Research Interviews, a meta-planning activity to draw out key conditions to support community-led approaches and a Co-design Workshop where participants considered a real example of a community-led action planning process. The findings from this event are summarised in a report here.
The interim findings from the WWS Collaborative Action research in West Dunbartonshire suggest that community-led approaches require a substantial shift in values and attitudes, enabled by greater openness to dialogue and compromise in service redesign; enhanced efforts to promote inclusion and diversity; and actions that demonstrate commitment and can build relations of trust with communities. Further details on the interim findings are available in this report [hyperlink]. The analyses and discussion in the interim report serve as a springboard for the future work of the WWS team and the case site partners.
What works in Community Profiling?
This project brings together What Works Scotland (WWS), Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and the community planning team of West Dunbartonshire Council. It also draws on the expertise of ISD (Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland) in data analysis. The purpose of this project is to work with the community planning team in West Dunbartonshire to co-produce data profiles for the 17 ‘Your Community’ neighbourhoods and to develop the capacity of local officers to produce and update these data profiles. The aim is to make statistical data at the micro-level more accessible, relevant and meaningful; and to contribute to a more localised approach to policy-making. Community profiles will provide a source of data, which, if combined with the local knowledge of residents and other sources of evidence, could contribute to the development of local action plans and improvements in partnership working.
Between now and December 2016, the WWS team will continue to work with the West Dunbartonshire community planning team to build local capacity and to capture and share the learning from the case site at a national level. Meantime the co-produced community profiles can be found on West Dunbartonshire’s web site here.
Claire Bynner, Research Associate with WWS and based at Glasgow University, and Ken Gibb, Professor at Glasgow University, WWS Co-Director, and Director of Policy Scotland, are working with West Dunbartonshire’s community planning team to develop these projects. For more information contact, Claire at: Claire.Bynner@glasgow.ac.uk and/or Suzanne Greer at: Suzanne.Greer@west-dunbarton.gov.uk
For more information on the West Dunbartonshire case site please read this blog